Christ and Unique Self
The following article was submitted for publication to the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice (JITP) 6:1. Because of space limitations in that volume, it was published online as an Integral Institute position paper.
By Rollie Stanich
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. ~John 1:1-14
Ever Ancient: The True Self
Who do you say that I am?
Twenty centuries after he walked the earth, the figure of Jesus still mystifies us. His footprints stretch across space, the hills and valleys of history; his words echo through time, through twenty centuries and into our own: who do you say that I am?
Scripture famously tells us Simon’s answer: “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” His answer strikes us as definitive, so much so that Jesus responds “I now call you Peter….” In glimpsing the identity of Christ—beyond Christ’s identification—Simon arrives at his own identity, as Peter, the rock on which the church will be built.
But what about you? What about me? Who is the ‘Living God’ to us? Who do we say that Christ is? And crucially, in the brilliant inquiry of Christian teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, who is it in us that recognizes this Christ?
The inquiry into Christ is relevant for Christians of every age. And the relevance is by no means limited to Christians; as the prolific theologian Raimon Panikkar points out, Christians do not have a monopoly on Christ. At the great confluence of the world’s religious traditions and the currents of modern, postmodern and Integral thought, each stream can trace and reveal the figure of Christ for us. And Christ may well have relevance for all of these streams, far beyond the effect of our traditional representations.
“How beautiful upon the mountains,” says the prophet Isaiah, “are the feet of the one who bears the good news.”
The good news of Christ, when seen from this confluence, is that we are infinitely Beloved of God and in fact, God’s very Love. And when Christ asks “who do you say that I am?”, we ourselves are the question, and we ourselves the answer….
The Wayfarer and the Way
To know another person—as Jesus inquired of Peter—is an extraordinary and intimate activity. It is, in some sense, a miracle that after and through 14 billion years of evolution a perspective such as yours or mine would emerge. But perhaps the greater miracle is that we have found one another; we can understand one another. Your subjectivity mingles with mine, and while you remain you and I remain I, in the midst of our intersubjectivity there emerges a greater miracle yet, what Ken Wilber calls a miracle called “We.” Knowledge in the deepest sense—in the sense of gnosis—requires direct experience of another.
Twenty centuries of reflection on Jesus have given us elaborate theologies and a degree of knowledge of the man from Galilee. We know Jesus, in theory. But in practice, do we know Christ, and the Ultimate Reality that Christ points us to? In an arresting statement, Fr. Thomas Keating tells us that the entire point of the Christian tradition is to bring about the same experience of the Absolute—as imminent, intimate—that Jesus had. “And all is summed up,” says Thomas Merton of contemplative practice, “in one awareness—not a proposition, but an experience: ‘I AM’.”
When asked by Philip to “show us the Father” Jesus replies “whoever has seen me has seen the Father”; when Thomas wonders “how can we know the way?” Jesus replies, “I am the Way.” We come to know Christ by reflecting on his words and his deeds. But mostly we come to know Christ by joining the divine We, allowing our spirits to mingle with the Spirit of Christ, letting Christ’s words echo and his deeds reflect in and as our own lives, and walking the paths before us as Jesus walked his. In Christ, the medium is indeed the message, and the Wayfarer, the Way….
The True Self
Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy. ~Thomas Merton
The Christian mystical path has taught, from ancient times, of a metanoia, a transformation from a false self to a True Self.
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, an early collection of the sayings of Jesus, points out this path. Reminiscent of the familiar “seek and you shall find” but beautifully nuanced are these words: “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all.” In her 1911 classic Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill names these stages as purgation, illumination, dark night, and union.
Ken Wilber refers to these as states of consciousness, observing that in spiritual paths East and West, these states are progressively stabilized, as wakefulness is extended from the gross, waking state into the subtle, dream state, into the causal, deep sleep state, and into the nondual state, which is the essence of them all.
What we consider to be our self shifts through this process of ‘selfing,’ from the ego of the gross state to the soul of the subtle state to the Self of the causal state, to the suchness of the nondual state.
We can see these states clearly realized in the life of Jesus. The Gospels report a time of purification, the ‘temptations in the desert’ prior to his public ministry; throughout his public ministry he consistently demonstrates his illumination in a rhythm of retreating and coming forth, of turning inward and then blossoming with the gifts and insights of his solitude. We see him journey through dark nights, perhaps the darkest being the ‘agony in the garden,’ aware that the end was near though his mission had barely begun. And he speaks of union in statements such as “I and the Father are one.”
Fully Human, Fully Divine
Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross…. ~Philippians 2:6-8
Going beyond the ego—the self we tend to identify with in the waking state—is seemingly one of the most intractable problems in the spiritual life, if only because it tends to be what Ken Wilber has called an Atman Project: a project of the ego itself. In a sublime teaching to the Christian monks of Snowmass, Maezumi Roshi suggested that we transcend the ego by pouring it out, in service of all beings.
The emptying of self—kenosis—is evident in the life of Christ, as referred to in the ancient hymn of Philippians. Considering an involutionary perspective, Christ emptied himself of suchness, of Self, of soul and of ego—even unto death—in giving of self. It was precisely in emptying himself of divinity and of humanity that Christ became, as Christianity has long held, fully human and fully divine. In the same act with which the divine Christ took on human nature (involution), the man Jesus realized his divinity (evolution). Christ demonstrates that to be fully human is to be fully divine. The way up, as Ken Wilber tells us in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, is indeed the way down.
In recognizing his True Self, Jesus realized what Christians call “the Christ,” the Anointed One, consciousness as such: the singular of which Schrödinger says the plural is unknown.** In Christ, the infinitely transcendent God becomes radically immanent. The familiar words from the Lord’s Prayer—on earth as it is in heaven—are perfectly fulfilled in the one who prayed those words: ** they come to pass in the heart of Christ. “Mercy and faithfulness have met;” says Psalm 85, “justice and peace have embraced. Faithfulness shall spring from the earth and justice look down from heaven.”
Eternity in Love
The Christian Trinity is based on a nondual intuition (not one, not two) that is beautifully paralleled in the traditions of the East. In Hinduism, Spirit takes the form of satchitananda (Being, Knowledge, and Bliss) and in Buddhism, Spirit manifests as Buddha (the Awakened One), Dharma (the Teaching), and Sangha (the Community).
The teaching of the Trinity states that God exists as three persons but one being.
“Person” here is understood to be both distinct and in community, in a much richer and more nuanced interpretation than the “individual” of the modern West.
The essence of the Trinity is thus in its radical relationality. From what Thomas Merton calls the hidden ground of Love—the Godhead, or the God beyond God—springs the Trinity, as the Father (the Lover), the Son (the Beloved) and the Holy Spirit (the Loving). The Father (or equally, says Eckhart, the Mother) ever pours out love; the Christ (and thus the True Self) ever receives and reflects that love, such that the love, as the Spirit, ever moves between them in the great dance of perichoresis. But Eckhart goes further: from the very same Ground from which the Trinity emerges, so do you, and so do I. We too are invited to that dance, as God’s very Beloved. Eternity, says William Blake, is in love with the productions of time.
Meister Eckhart tells us that it is the very nature of the Word to be spoken in emptiness. Catholic theologian Karl Rahner tells us that God is the mystery of infinite fullness and human beings, the mystery of infinite emptiness, or infinite openness. The Word was spoken perfectly in Mary, the mother of Jesus, precisely because of her emptiness, her openness (“let it be done in me according to your word”). And to the extent that we are emptied, and we are open, the Word is spoken in us as well and no less.
Before Abraham Was
A life that began in the obscurity and humility of the Nativity culminated in the astounding proclamation: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” We see in the words and deeds of Jesus a progressive realization of soul, of Self, and of suchness: “I and the Father are one.” We see what are perhaps the first flashes on nonduality in the West: the Absolute breaking forth into the relative, leading it with love untold on the great journey, the return to the Absolute. We see Jesus stretched out between heaven and earth, as though to prove through a human life that love can never be killed, because love can never die. Thus was the realization of the Master of the West. And then we see a coming back….
In the Vajrayana Buddhist practice of tonglen, we breathe in suffering and breath out compassion, in ever widening circles of embrace. In some translations of the Passion, we read that, in the final moment of his life, “Jesus breathed his last.” Through his short, blessed life we see Jesus take up this practice, and once and for all as he took up his cross. Until with his last inhale, he breathed in infinite suffering—the broken heartedness of every being. And with an exhale to eternity, he breathed compassion on every being, a breath we still feel today, waves on a vast ocean that still lap gently upon our shores.
The Mahayana Buddhist notion of the bodhisattva (literally, “enlightened being”) is illustrative here. The bodhisattva vows to realize enlightenment and then to return with that illumination, for the sake of all. Jesus became enlightened, realizing that his very being was Christ; humanity and divinity were so perfectly woven and wedded in his heart that we may truly say that Jesus was the Son of God and Christ, the Son of Man. And he returned, saying: “come, follow me.” Jesus Christ is, by definition, a bodhisattva; how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who bears the good news.
Ever New: Perspective
we are so both and oneful
night cannot be so sky
sky cannot be so sunful
i am through you so i
Christ in Perspective
In the twenty centuries since Jesus walked the earth, humanity has been witness to a series of revolutions in thought, each the hallmark of an unfolding level of development. The states of consciousness along the Great Way are inevitably experienced and interpreted through stages of consciousness. With each stage, a lens is added, clarifying our perspective: the rational level affords us the ability to triangulate our assertions via a 3rd-person perspective; the pluralistic level gives us an awareness of context via a 4th-person perspective. From the Integral level and its 5th-person perspective, we can see clearly for the first time the human journey through these levels; we can hold with compassion the others on that journey, for we can trace it in ourselves.
Perhaps the seminal insight from Integral is the awareness of perspectives. In the thought of Ken Wilber, they are the fundamental building blocks of reality. It is often supposed that the universe began with the Big Bang. But then, we might ask, in whose perspective did the Big Bang arise? Perspectives are prior to anything else; in the moment that anything arises, it does so through perspectives. Every experience takes place, irreducibly, within the consciousness of sentient beings (1st-person), within their shared experience (2nd-person), and in the externally observable, manifest universe (3rd-person). These perspectives go all the way up and all the way down. And looking all the way up through any of them, we behold one of the Three Faces of Spirit.
Where do you live?
A fascinating corollary to the question who are you? is the question where are you? Upon encountering Jesus for the first time, his disciples’ first question was, “Master, where do you live?” Every perspective in the Kosmos is radically unique; even our own perspectives are shifting in the microgeny of every moment. Standing as mysterious subjects in the hall of mirrors into which Ramana Maharshi’s inquiry leads us, locating precisely where we’re viewing the Kosmos from can be of enormous help.
Perspectives are available to all sentient beings; they are simply a way of creating a world, or a worldspace in which that being’s world arises. The AQAL model is perhaps the most comprehensive and precise way ever devised of qualifying those perspectives, and understanding those worldspaces. To specify someone’s perspective—the quadrants that a person is looking through, the levels they’re looking from, their development along various lines, the states they experience and types that describe them—can help us to then take that perspective in a way never before available. It’s said that one of the effects of continued development is an increasing capacity to relate within the community of beings, though the corollary, that fewer beings can relate to us, is true.
Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summarizes his teaching with the instruction, “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (a tall order if there ever was one!). But a beautiful translation reads “therefore set no bounds to your love, as God sets no bounds to God’s love.”
Says Rumi, “your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” One of the great gifts of being human is the boundless capacity of our perspective to evolve; from here, the question of who Christ is—and who we are—becomes ever more captivating….
His Father’s Eyes
It seems a daring proposition to attempt to take the perspective of God. But the writers of scripture certainly did. Throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (not to mention those of other traditions) we find the perspective of God being expressed, and therefore being taken, placed in a human context and written by a human hand, however divinely inspired. In some sense, the invitation to love is the invitation to a shared interiority, to dwell within the sacred space and move across the holy ground of another. Inhabiting that space and taking that perspective, we know ourselves beloved, the “thou” of their “I.”
“Say not,” says Kahlil Gibran, “that God is in my heart, but rather that I am in the heart of God.” The saints, said Thomas Merton, were not the ones who loved God the most; they were the ones who most realized how beloved they were of God.
The Proverbs speak beautifully of the interior life of God, of God’s transcendence: “From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth…then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.” And Isaiah speaks movingly of God’s immanence and presence to us: “I will never forget you, my people; I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”
Through the perspective of Jesus, Christ was given sight. GREAT!!! With the nails of the crucifixion, our names, too, are carved on the palms of the hands of Christ. And when he beheld his mother, and the disciple whom he loved—who represents all those who seek Christ—from the cross, looking upon them with limitless love, it truly could be said that he had his Father’s eyes.
Something Beautiful for God
In a statement that takes a moment (if not a lifetime) to reconcile, Meister Eckhart says: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” To have the gift of being is to hold a perspective; to have the give of human being is to hold a human perspective—perspective without bound and without limit. We are ever held and beheld in the eye of God; through the same eye, the same seeing, we are invited to behold God.
Jesus, we are told, gave sight to the blind. But in a miracle of equal magnitude, Jesus gave sight to Christ. God’s perspective was enriched immensely, immeasurably through the eyes of Jesus; never was humanity seen—and thus loved—as from the cross. We are told that whatever we do to the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters, that we do unto Christ. Mother Theresa, so recently in our midst, served the poorest of the poor because she could see Christ in them, with blinding clarity. Jesus, we are told, walked on water. But Thich Nhat Han teaches that the real miracle is to walk on earth. God in us is the Lover, and Christ in us, the Beloved. And that thou art; we ourselves are the miracle.
In Christian celebrations of the Eucharist, the minister holds up the consecrated bread and repeats the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “This is my body, which will be given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” To give one’s body and one’s very self is the most intimate of gifts; “there is no greater love.” To take the priceless gift of our human perspective, to hold it in all spaciousness, to view God in all things and all things in God, and then to offer our perspective to the divine, that the divine might see the world through our eyes, touch the world with our hands, and love the world with our hearts, is to do, as Mother Theresa so beautifully said, “something beautiful for God.”
The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors
The Book of Genesis famously opens with “in the beginning” and the first words that God speaks are “let there be light.” We see this paralleled beautifully in the opening of the Gospel of John: “in the beginning was the Word,” the light of the human race, the light that the darkness has not overcome. In the depths of night, in the humility of the Nativity, in the stillness of the manger, in the emptiness of Mary, the Word is spoken, and the light shines in the darkness.
But light has no effect unless it finds something to illuminate. Every being, and thus every perspective, receives that divine light; each one basks in its rays and is brilliantly illuminated, seen and loved in its radical uniqueness.
The visionary artist Alex Grey called his most famous exhibit the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a collection of images that symbolize human being and being human, an exquisite metaphor for the Kosmos. Every being in the community of beings takes their place in this chapel. Each of us forms a stained-glass window after the image we bear in our hearts, taking its shards in our hands and washing its panes with our tears, fashioning it so that it is utterly irreplaceable, like no other. Each of us reflects and refracts the divine light in a unique way, filling the sanctuary in the masterpiece of every moment.
And my window would not be the same had I never beheld yours, and I receive your beauty and your grace; in your light I see Light and am profoundly moved and forever changed. And the light dances ecstatically between these windows, yours and mine, and in our miraculous ‘We’ she finds her delight. God speaks the Word in you, and God speaks the Word in me, speakly sweetly and saying: “I am through you so I….”
Late Have I Loved Thee
Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new! Late have I loved Thee…. ~St. Augustine
For as long as human beings have lived, they have sought that which was beyond themselves; part of what characterizes our humanity is our capacity to transcend our very selves. As we walk along the Great Way we arrive at increasingly subtle realms, and an increasingly subtle understanding of who it is that is making the journey. Venerable, awakened teachers, Jesus among them, have gone before us to illuminate the way that each of us travel —though in slumber and darkness—every day and every night. Beginning, as we all do, from the ego in the gross realm, they have pointed out the soul which dwells in the subtle and beyond that, the True Self which dwells in causal and stands outside of time. The True Self, as St. Augustine exclaimed, is ever ancient.
A nondual Kosmos—that is, a Kosmos of Emptiness and form—is necessarily evolutionary, since form evolves. Though Spirit is indeed the wetness of every wave, it pours into the Kosmos in a particular way at its leading edge, through those who’ve mastered every state and every stage to have unfolded at that point in time, for those who’ve realized what Ken Wilber calls Supermind. Through such as these, Spirit takes the most expansive perspective ever taken, and moment to moment begins to recognize itself, to witness its own evolution. Perspective, as St. Augustine exclaimed, is ever new.
Given the True Self, ever ancient, and perspective, ever new, who is Beauty to us?
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror. ~Kahlil Gibran
Beauty: the Unique Self
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!” they cried one to the other. “All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” ~Isaiah 1
One of the great gifts of the Integral age, with its expansive view of the True Self and its nuanced understanding of perspectives, is what happens when encounter one another. In each of us the True Self takes a perspective, though that perspective may be veiled by our blindness to Who we truly Are, and distorted by the narrowness of our vision. “We see dimly,” says St. Paul, “as through a mirror; but then we shall see face to face, and I shall know even as I am known….” Through spiritual practice we can come to see ourselves as we truly are; we can realize our True Self. But inhabiting our True Self, we still come back, and we necessarily and wondrously come back through the radically unique perspective that is ours. Beauty, ever ancient and ever new, is the True Self when it takes a perspective. And that is the Unique Self, the Word made flesh.
The Call of Isaiah is beautifully illustrative of the Unique Self. In a vision, Isaiah finds himself before the throne of God, inhabiting his True Self, purified and illuminated. God seeks a person through whom to speak. When Isaiah exclaims “Here I am; send me!” he is offering to God the perspective of his person—the perspective of Isaiah.
Christ as Jesus
We see the Unique Self lived and modeled immaculately in the life of Jesus, who was called Christ. Hearing his extraordinary claim of oneness with the Father and his echoing the Name that Moses heard from the Burning Bush—“before Abraham was, I AM”—there can be little doubt about the realization of Jesus. When Peter and John ran to the tomb after the proclamation of Mary Magdalene—“I have seen the Lord”—they found it empty. Emptying himself of all form and thus dwelling as Emptiness, Jesus realized his True Self (or perhaps, his True Self came to dwell within him) and awakened as the Christ.
But there can also be little doubt about the uniqueness of Jesus. We see in his gentleness with the children, his ferocity in the temple, in the heartbreaking and exquisite ritual of the Last Supper a person—the person of Jesus. The beauty of his words and the grace of his actions were proper to Jesus and the boundless perspective that he held.
In the story of Palm Sunday the crowds welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, quoting from Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” The verse implies that the Great Search is undone; rather than running toward God, Jesus is coming back from God, as the messenger—and bearing the message—of God’s infinite mercy and God’s unfathomable love, of the good news. And the good news is that because Jesus is human as we are human, we are Christ as he is Christ. The realization of Christ is available to us, as our very birthright. Blessed are we, for we too come in the name of the Lord. And Christ whispers to whispers the secret: “truly I say to you, the holy ground that I have walked gently upon is the territory of you.”
By the Mystery of this Water and Wine
Here in time we are celebrating the eternal birth which God the Father bore and unceasingly bears in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature. ~Meister Eckhart
At the penultimate moment of the Mass, the celebrant pours a drop of water in the chalice of wine, and a prayer is said, though whispered: “by the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” In this prayer is the heart of the Christian message: the divinization of the human being through the humanization of God. We too are to be come fully human, fully divine; in becoming one, we become the other. “We are to become heaven,” says Meister Eckhart, “so that God might find a home here.”
In being emptied of divinity, Christ took on not a human person, but human nature. The same nature that was in Jesus is in us; so much so that in the same verse which described Christ’s kenosis, we hear the injunction, “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Our perspective is held by Christ; Christ’s Self dwells in us.
In his farewell to his disciples, Jesus tells them that those who believe in him will do the things that he has done, and greater things than these. This passage is scarcely believable until we begin to see that the same Christ who lived in Jesus longs to be born in us, the True Self of the perspective that we are. In an evolutionary Kosmos, that perspective evolves, so that Spirit becomes conscious of itself and realizes itself precisely in us. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are the vehicles of Spirit’s unfolding, and to the extent that we are aware of our divine mission, Christ can accomplish through us the works “greater than these.” In the stillness of our hearts, in the silence of our minds, in the spaciousness of our perspective, in the luminous emptiness at the edge of the Kosmos, the Word is spoken, and Christ comes again, transfiguring our perspective in divine light.
The Divine Iconographer
The task of every creature, says Raimon Panikkar, is to complete, to perfect, his or her icon of reality. In the Eastern churches, icons are said to be written from the most profound of states, and are considered windows to the divine. The practice of meditating before an icon is said to be similarly sublime. Though the divine iconographer—the True Self, Christ—is one, every icon is radically unique in its colors, its hues, and the image it portrays. Each one is written with an indescribably beautiful prayer on the lips and in the heart of the Writer, and written in loving strokes with infinite tenderness. Every icon reflects the divine in its own irreplaceable way, and the icon of God that every being completes is a unique window to the divine. The Unique Self is a unique icon that points to the True Self, shimmering beneath the diaphanous veil of the perspective.
Christ is the Word of God but Panikkar reminds us that we, too, are little words of God. In the divine sentence that God speaks in and as each of us, Christ begins a sentence that we complete; even as Jesus predicates a sentence that begins with Christ, so too do we. Says Merton, “Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny…. To put it better we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity.”
As Ken Wilber points out, having realized the True Self in everpresent awareness, we come back—“because we promised to”—and we come back as the Bodhisattva, the enlightened being of our choice. We see this in Jesus, who clearly realized Christ and returned as his unique self, as “Christ Jesus”; we too are called to everpresent awareness, to the True Self, to Christ. And we return, brilliantly alive and uniquely ourselves, the Bodhisattva of our choice. “Love God,” says St. Augustine, “and do what you will.”
Small Hours, Little Wonders
our lives are made
in these small hours
these little wonders,
these twists & turns of fate
time falls away,
but these small hours,
these small hours still remain
Beyond even the words of Christ, the deeds of Christ mark the Christian path. We are called to live as Christ, in our particular case. But the True Self has no beginning and no ending in time. As time falls away, those timeless moments in the life of Jesus are repeated in our own. Christ lives again, in the “second coming” of our own lives.
First and foremost, the miracle of the incarnation—God becoming human—takes place in our lives, no less than in the life of Jesus. Meister Eckhart speaks of the continual incarnation. Into the silence, God eternally speaks the Word, and into the emptiness, the Word is ever being born. In the same movement that Word became flesh in the baby of Bethlehem, Christ becomes human in you, and in me.
So too the Eucharist in which bread and wine are offered, taken in Christ’s hands, broken and poured out so that all who hunger and all who thirst might have their fill. The Last Supper is now. When we eat this bread, and when we drink this cup, gathered in the name of Christ, in the name of love, Christ sits with us at our table, present in our midst. And we recognize Christ: in the breaking of the bread, our hearts are broken open wide.
In the midst of our suffering, we too are crucified, in little crucifixions. We too turn to Jesus and say “remember me, Lord.” And Christ says to us, “even now, you are with me in paradise.” As Christ lives in us, we too die and are buried with Christ, and we too depart the empty tomb and witness the dawn of our own Resurrection.
The Way of Embodied Love
“Someday after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire.” ~Tielhard de Chardin
Christianity might be described as the Way of Embodied Love. Christ is the Way, as revealed in the words of Jesus to Thomas. The life of Jesus is beautifully instructive; in following his footsteps we are invited to his experience of God, as intimately and immanently present to us. In the footsteps of Jesus, Christ begins to walk with us.
In a remarkable dream of a monk of Snowmass, Fr. Bede Griffiths—the English Benedictine monk who went to India to live as he imagined Christ would have, but in the context of India—spoke of the Christian Way, from his perspective. The set of injunctions is at the same time beautifully advaitic and brilliantly evocative of the Christian mystical path: There is an Other / Become the Other / There is no Other.
To say that there is an Other is to look all the way up in our intersubjectivity to the depths of our deepest ‘We,’ there to encounter the One who loves us with a love too deep for words. We become the Other by realizing that we are the “thou” of God, who is our deepest “I,” and communing with our divine Lover, in the Holy of Holies, in the sanctuary of our heart. We experience ourselves as the Beloved, blissfully embodied in love, and as love. And in love’s ecstasy, we see that we are truly not one, not two with God—there is no Other. And we rest in the bosom of the God beyond God, and we rise again as ourselves, the True Self, clothed in our perspective and embodied as the Unique Self, the Word made flesh—as it was “in the beginning”—in our particular case.
Was looking at the crucifix
Got something in my eye
A light that doesn’t need to live
And doesn’t need to die
A riddle in the book of love
Obscure and obsolete
Till witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep.
Rollie Stanich has been a vital part of the emerging Integral movement for years, having previously worked as the Chief Facilitator of Integral Spiritual Center, as a former managing editor of Integral Naked from 2004-2005, and as an ongoing contributor to Integral Life. Rollie’s spiritual path is one of contemplative Christianity—he is a practitioner of Centering Prayer and a longtime student of Fr. Thomas Keating.